One of the quickest ways to ruin the look of a scale model airplane is to install your RC radio power switch so everyone can see it. Hiding radio switches is big part of every scale project and with my current project I also wanted to hide the radio’s on/off switch and charge receptacle. With any scale model the first place to look is a scale 3-view drawing which includes various details such as hatch covers. So on the left side of the full-size Nieuport 24, there are a couple very obvious hatches. One of them is for removing spent ammunition casings and with my model, this hatch would be 3×2 inches, perfect for getting to my radio switch
The area where this hatch is located on my model is covered with 1/32 inch plywood so it is very smooth, and has a hard surface.
Working with my 3-views I determined that I would slightly modify this hatch. The full size has a series of thumb screws all around the edges and this would be too time consuming to get to the on/off switch. So, I decided to add a length of miniature piano hinge to the top edge of the hatch cover. This is about 3/8-inch wide (3/16 Inch either side of the hinge pin) and they are available in 1-foot lengths at most hobby shops.If you don’t find it there check out micromark.com.
These hinges are not made of brass, though they have a brass plated finish. They made of mild steel and you can easily cut them with a rotary tool and a cutoff disc.
To make the hatch cover, I laminated two layers of 1/64-inch plywood together using yellow wood glue. I glued the two layers together and then taped them to the side of the fuselage so they would when dry, retain the curved profile that matched the fuselage side panel. I used some clear food wrap to prevent the pieces of plywood from gluing to the fuselage.
Once the glue had dried, I removed the tape and then cut and sanded the hatch cover to the required size.I then held the hatch cover in position and then traced its shape onto the side panel. Again using a cutoff disc, I carefully removed the material from the new hatch opening make sure to be neat and not cut outside of the pencil guidelines. I then drilled several 1mm screw holes in the hinge tabs and staggered the screw spacing. A tip here is to make the hatch opening slightly smaller than the cover, then carefully sand the edges of the cover for a precise fit.
Here you see the hatch cover installed in the fuselage side panel. Note that the hinge knuckles are recessed slightly into the movable part of the hatch cover. This minimizes the space between the two mating edges. Also note that the spacing all around the cover is very even for a neat appearance. Also note the two screw heads in the lower corners.
By inserting a hex driver into the front screwhead and turning counter-clockwise, you release the latch holding the cover closed. The right screw is non-functional and is there just for scale looks.
Under the edges of the opening there are thin plywood strips to form an ledge for the hatch cover to seat against. The latch slips under the ledge to securely hold the cover shut. You could also use strong magnets to secure the hatch cover, but this would require adding a thin piece of steel to the underside of the cover.
Here you see the latch. It is simply made with a screw and nut, a plywood spacer the same width as the inner ledge and a brass latch tab. The tab was soldered to the locking nut and then threaded into the screw. Tighten into place and the job is done.
Here, the installed RC radio switch hatch has the radio and ignition switches installed in the inner surface. Neat and completely out of sight when the model is painted and finished.
Using larger fasteners allows weathering stains to show up easier and adds to the model’s vintage appearance.
Being a WW I biplane, the obvious screws and latch heads look scale and will look even better with some weathering added to the all silver finish.